Story: Housing and government

Solid and dependable, the state house has become a New Zealand icon and is a symbol of the government’s involvement in housing. Successive governments have had different ideas about their role in housing, but as well as being a landlord to many of its citizens, the state has also helped New Zealanders buy their own houses through many different schemes.

Story by Ben Schrader
Main image: Upper Greys Avenue flats, Auckland, 1964. Source: New Zealand Herald

Story summary

All images & media in this story

Early settlers’ housing

Early European settlers were housed in government-owned barracks – huts or other buildings – when they first arrived in the country. The government gave town councils some powers related to housing, for example to prevent overcrowding.

Worker’s dwellings

A lack of good-quality and affordable housing led Premier Richard Seddon’s Liberal government to build houses to rent to workers from 1906. However, this scheme was not very successful, and the Reform Party government which followed sold the houses.

State housing

In the late 1930s a new Labour government began to build state houses. As well as providing housing for families, it aimed to give work to builders and manufacturers. In the 1940s whole suburbs of state houses were built, such as Naenae in Lower Hutt and Ōtara in Auckland. Later, some state houses were sold, often to their tenants.

Support for private housing

Some governments thought it was important for people to own their own homes. From the 1920s, but especially from the 1950s, there were various schemes to help people buy their own homes. Until the 1980s the government loaned home buyers money, usually at a low interest rate. New Zealand had a very high rate of people who owned their own home, compared to other similar countries.

Council-owned housing

Many city councils built houses and flats, which they rented out mainly to elderly or single people.

21st century

In the 2000s the government continued to provide state housing and had several schemes to help people buy their own home. The government also set standards for housing quality.

How to cite this page:

Ben Schrader, 'Housing and government', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Ben Schrader, published 20 June 2012